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June 04, 2018

The Phillies’ offensive offense needs to change—and fast

The numbers, the ones that truly count, aren’t deceiving anyone. Throw out exit velocity off the bat and all of the other analytic mumbo jumbo. Over the Phillies last 10 games, they’re averaging 2.5 runs a game. During that span, they’ve gone 3-7, which includes the weekend’s sweep by what had been a struggling San Francisco Giants team, (which outscored the Phils 12-1).

During the San Francisco series, Phillies’ hitters struck out a combined 29 times. One of the biggest culprits was outfielder Aaron Altherr, who went 0-for-7 in two games, striking out five times. The three runs the Phillies have produced over their last four games have come from two players—and one of them is pitcher Jake Arrieta. His solo homer was the Phils’ lone run Sunday. Catcher Jorge Alfaro is responsible for the other two.

Arrieta went off after the Giants blasted the Phils—and him—in a 6-1 loss on Sunday. The former Cy Young winner spoke about “accountability checks,” “bad defensive shifts,” and poor decision-making by Scott Kingery.

What seemed to be left out was the horrid offensive production. The Phillies are third in the National League in strikeouts, with 552, behind San Diego (577) and San Francisco (553). Overall, in Major League Baseball, they’re fourth, with the Texas Rangers topping everyone with team total of 603 strikeouts.

By the way, Texas is in last place in the American League West, while San Diego is in last in the National League West, with San Francisco in the penultimate spot before the lowly Padres.

Of the top four teams striking out, the Phillies are the only ones with a winning record, sitting at 31-26, surprisingly still 1.5 games out of first in the National League East, despite being swept by the Giants.

Over the weekend they were shutout for consecutive times the first time since July 8-9, 2015, which came against the Los Angeles Dodgers. In May, they averaged 4.1 runs a game. Since May 18, they’ve scored 45 runs in 15 games, dropping that down to 3 runs a game.

They had averaged 4.7 runs a game through the first 41 games of the season.

Now there is a correlation here. The Phils have been playing better teams, despite the Giants, who were 26-30 entering the weekend.

It won’t get any better.

The Phillies have the Cubs this week, in Chicago, followed by two sets against the hot Milwaukee Brewers, two sets against the National League East defending champ Washington Nationals, a series against Colorado, the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals.

The Phils won’t play a team under .500 until they meet the lowly Baltimore Orioles on July 3.

“I think we're pressing a little bit,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said over weekend about the Phils’ current offensive woes. “I think we are putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to get the big hit. We're putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to drive the baseball. Sometimes it's happening, sometimes it's not. It's a little bit less patient right now. I don't think it's a lack of talent.

“I believe strongly in the guys in the lineup tonight. I believe strongly in the guys in that room to score a bunch of runs. And I believe in our hitting leader, [hitting coach] John Mallee, to lead them in the right direction. So, everything is in place. It's more just we're going through a tough stretch. We have to weather this storm.”

They may.

Right now, however, with all of the strikeouts, they’re certainly supplying an awfully strong breeze.

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